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Published: Wednesday, 4/10/2013

State board rules that city police command is owed $1M in pay

Toledo might appeal state ruling

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo Law Director Adam Loukx, left, and Councilman D. Michael Collins say the city does not have the money to pay the command officers the $1.2 million to $1.5 million. Toledo Law Director Adam Loukx, left, and Councilman D. Michael Collins say the city does not have the money to pay the command officers the $1.2 million to $1.5 million.
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A state board has ruled that Toledo police command officers should be paid lost wages that likely will total more than $1 million. But there’s a chance the city will appeal in hopes of not paying out a penny.

The State Employment Relations Board handed down the ruling Monday, but Toledo Law Director Adam Loukx said the decision to repay members of the Toledo Police Command Officers’ Association must be approved by Judge Linda Jennings of Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

If Judge Jennings accepts the board’s recommended “remedies” to the 2010 unfair labor practice charge, the city “is likely to appeal it,” Mr. Loukx said.

Councilman D. Michael Collins estimates the potential payout is between $1.2 million and $1.5 million and supports paying back the command officers, but said the money isn’t in the city coffers.

“It’s going to throw the general fund budget into a huge problem,” Mr. Collins said. “We don’t have a million dollars in the budget to be able to cover the damages.”

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But should the city again appeal the ruling, the union’s attorney could file for legal fees, forcing the city to come up with even more cash.

“This is like refrying an egg,” Mr. Collins said. “It ain’t gonna work.”

The years-long suit with its procedural nuances has wound through both the Lucas County Common Pleas Court and the Sixth District Court of Appeals, as well as the state board and, it appears, is nowhere near a resolution.

“We are a long way from having to pay out, if we have to pay out,” Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said, adding that the case eventually could end up before the Ohio Supreme Court.

Lt. Dan Schultz, president of the command officers’ union, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

In March, 2010, City Council, at Mayor Mike Bell’s request, declared “exigent circumstances” as the city faced a reported $48 million deficit. Officials warned they would not be able to meet payroll and threatened layoffs of police officers, firefighters, and nonsafety personnel.

For nine months, union members were ordered to pay the 10 percent share of their pension contribution and pay more for health insurance, based on a sliding salary scale.

Collective-bargaining units, excluding police command and Teamsters, entered into memorandums of understanding, Mr. Herwat said. The Teamsters were not included because of then-ongoing contract negotiations.

In May, 2010, the police command union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the city with the employment relations board. In April, 2011, the board ruled in the city’s favor.

The police command union appealed the state’s decision in May, 2011, in Lucas County Common Pleas Court; Judge Jennings overturned the state’s ruling but did not offer a resolution.

Even if she had, Mr. Herwat said, the city likely would have filed an appeal.

With Judge Jennings’ decision, the state board and city filed an appeal with the Sixth District Court of Appeals; the command union filed a cross-appeal. Each appeal was dismissed by the court, stating that the common pleas decision was not a final order up for appeal.

The case was remanded to the state board, which was charged with determining appropriate restitution in the case.

The board wrote in its ruling that it still sides with the city and does not believe the command officers’ contracts were violated. The employee relations board was required to set restitution for the command officers, even though it does not agree with the court’s ruling.

The board, in its decision, said it retained the right to appeal, contending the case never should have gone to the common pleas court. “It’s an age-old issue in the law,” Mr. Herwat said. “Administrative agencies versus the court. Who has jurisdiction?”

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.


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